When I think about those people who have had a profound influence on my life they are all very different in their personality but all of them have been great coaches. Whilst their approaches may differ, they all share similar qualities which I have distilled down to 6 key traits. Some of them will not be a surprise but I believe all of them are important when it comes to being an effective coach.
Perhaps an obvious one to start off with, but it is impossible to be truly effective when it comes to helping others if you are not authentic and true to yourself. My most influential coaches and teachers have a grounded sense of self and are comfortable with who they are. You don’t need to have been there and done that to be a great coach either. You just need to know why, how and where you add value. Jose Mourinho, the current Chelsea FC coach, is a great example of this. Self-awareness is one of the five components of emotional intelligence, as is the next trait – motivation.
A great coach believes what they do makes a difference. They are not motivated by the pay-check they receive at the end of the month or other extrinsic factors, it is about intrinsic motivation. I coach for the enjoyment and the satisfaction I get from being able to do what I love, living my purpose and making a difference to other people.
An effective coach knows where their coachee (the person whom they are coaching) or their team are at, and what they are capable of in the future. They facilitate the creation of a roadmap to join ability and ambition to focused committed action. They actively seek to take their coachees out of their comfort zone. This was a key philosophy of John Buchanan, former Australian cricket team coach, who coached the team to a world-record 16 consecutive Test match victories.
To do this effectively it requires the philosophy that at certain times it is okay to make mistakes and to turn failure into learning opportunities. This means taking a more long-term approach to development and performance, which is a challenge in the current demands of business and high performance sport, but techniques like reflection and action learning can prove useful here.
The roadmap is exactly that, it is not set in stone but rather acts as a guide as to the direction you want to go in. Effective coaches have the ability to change and to try something else in pursuit of achieving the desired goal. Often, this is where other people or methods haven’t been as effective, which is quite common given that not all people learn the same, as supported by Kolb and other learning theorists. This can pose a challenge in group settings, like team sport or project teams, and when working under tight deadlines.
The extant literature on trust and respect put communication as one of the pre-determinants of trust. Like communication trust is a two-way street and is earned through action, and you cannot be effective unless you consistently “walk the talk”. If you demand punctuality from your staff or your team you must demand it of yourself.
To be a great coach you have to constantly engage and keep the lines of communication open. Asking the right questions is important here, even when you think you know the answer.
A great coach will know when to act and when to step back. This is linked to allowing individuals to make mistakes, but also relates to keeping their emotional attachment in check. Catharsis forms a bond between a coach and their team, and a win or a loss feels no different to the coach as it does to the team. Effective coaches have the ability to remain calm and focused in tense situations, even if underneath this may not be true they are able to give this perception to their team and provide them with what they need, whether it is a push or a hand up.
Question – When do you know you are a successful coach?
Answer – When you are no longer needed.
I believe anyone who has the ability to exert influence over others assumes the role of a coach and as such these 6 traits are as applicable in coaching sport, as they are in business and our personal lives.
How would you rank yourself on these 6 traits? What is your biggest strength and can you identify your weakness(es)?
And what steps can you take to improve your coaching to get the best out of yourself and your team?
And if all goes well… make yourself redundant!
If you like this post, then please share it. I would love to hear any other traits you feel great coaches possess.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Carson – www.dcimages.org